Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason: Week 3 Stock Report
The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to finalize the blueprint for the 2014 season. The preseason has been a series of ups and downs, and confidence going into the season is not where it should be at some positions. Time is running out, and so many questions are left without answers.
Unfortunately, doing a piece like this means one has to examine the darker side of this roster. While some players have really seen their stock soar over the past few weeks, others are taking a serious tumble. So much so that in some cases, players who were almost assured roster spots might find themselves out of work.
Here is the Steelers' stock report as the third week of the preseason comes to a close.
Stock Up: David DeCastro, G
In going back and reviewing the film of the Steelers' past two preseason games, the play of guard David DeCastro has been a real high point. The Steelers have struggled mightily to get anything going in the run game (35 carries, 93 yards), but don't put that on DeCastro.
DeCastro has shown impressive agility in run blocking. He works to the second level quickly, and once he gets his hands on you, it is over. If Pittsburgh wants to get the run game going, they need to focus more on making DeCastro (and center Maurkice Pouncey) the focal point of the run calls.
Offensive line coach Mike Munchak continues to try to implement a zone-blocking system for the run game. Thus far, DeCastro seems to be the only offensive lineman on the team who has really embraced the concept and excelled at it.
Stock Down: Brad Wing, P
The punting woes of the Steelers continue. The Steelers were ranked No. 27 in punting in 2013. Going into 2014, if it's possible, the punting game might be worse. Veteran punter Adam Podlesh hasn't reported to camp at all, and so that has left Brad Wing with the inside track to the starting job.
And if you go back and watch him play in college, things look promising. However, his game performance has been very disappointing. In 17 punts, Wing has only averaged 40.3 yards per punt.
Of all of the spots on this roster, punter is the one where Pittsburgh is going to have to find help in free agency. Most teams are carrying multiple punters at this point, so look for the Steelers to entertain the notion of cutting Wing loose if they can find a better option.
Stock Up: Shamarko Thomas, S
The Steelers' secondary is still a mess. However, it isn't all their fault. This preseason has brought about a new era of excessive penalties in the defensive secondary. This new philosophy plays into the hands of passing offenses and cripples a defense's ability to impose its will on its opponent.
The Steelers have found themselves in a spot where the secondary is playing tight and tentative. One player this hasn't hit yet is safety Shamarko Thomas. It is impossible to coach out the aggressive style of play that Thomas utilizes.
Yes, Thomas is going to get called for some penalties. But is that the end of the world? Is dropping the hammer on a wide receiver and getting a penalty worse than giving up a long gain playing timid coverage?
Stock Down: Cam Thomas, DE
Sometimes, a player's stock takes a hit through no fault of their own. That is the case with defensive end Cam Thomas. Up until last week, it seemed as if the Steelers had their starting defensive line. This included defensive end Cam Thomas starting opposite Cameron Heyward.
However, the Steelers threw a wrench into the whole process when they decided to bring back defensive end Brett Keisel. We won't really know until the season starts what Keisel's role will be with this team, but if he is plugged into the starting lineup, it will be at Thomas' expense.
Stock Up: Martavis Bryant, WR
The battle for the team's No. 3 wide receiver spot is still very much up in the air. There was a time when it seemed that veteran Lance Moore would come in and lock down the slot receiver spot with ease. His experience and productivity would certainly point in that direction.
However, of all of the wide receivers on the roster not named Antonio Brown or Markus Wheaton, it is rookie Martavis Bryant who has impressed. All of the wide receivers, save for Brown, have had their moments this preseason. That's not to say every moment was great, but for Bryant, his big-play ability and NFL-caliber frame have been very consistent.
In addition to his catches, Bryant has drawn multiple defensive penalties by my count. In a league that seems to be begging for more offense and more defensive penalties, this "skill" could prove invaluable. Even if you don't reel in the catch, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws it up to the 6'4" Bryant and good things happen.
Stock Down: Jarvis Jones, LB
When Jarvis Jones was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, expectations were high. The Steelers needed an upgrade at that coveted pass-rushing outside linebacker position.
Unfortunately, when the dust settled on the 2013 season, Jones grossly underperformed. I understand Dick LeBeau’s defense is challenging, but only a single sack in eight starts is unacceptable.
But things are better this year right? Jones showed up to camp bigger and stronger and ready to step up his game? Unfortunately, no. Jones came to camp no bigger, and so far this preseason, he still looks to be a step slow off the ball and doesn’t have the beef to hold up at the point of attack.
Stock Up: Ryan Shazier, LB
Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier has been in two Steelers preseason games, and in both of them he looked to be the most effective and active defender on the team. What stands out about Shazier to me is that he is a natural football player. His athleticism garnered all of the headlines, but that's not all that shows up on film.
Shazier understands his strengths and uses them to their fullest. He is a much more instinctual player than I gave him credit for in college. His ability to break down a play and get to the football in a hurry is elite.
This defense has taken its licks in the past two weeks. It appears the Steelers are going to ride or die with the nickel as a base defense, so it is going to be up to players like Shazier to be physical against the run and athletic in coverage.
Stock Down: Le'Veon Bell/LeGarrette Blount, RB
It is only appropriate that running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount be lumped together as the big stock down for the Steelers. The reason is of course that the two of them got in some hot water with the law last Wednesday.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter shared the report of Blunt and Bell’s arrest last Wednesday on his Facebook page. Bell and Blount were arrested for marijuana possession, and Blount was additionally charged with DUI.
It is impossible to speculate on what if any punishment either of these players will get for this indiscretion. There’s a real chance that nothing will come down from the league anytime soon, as the NFL has been known to drag its feet at times.
If head coach Mike Tomlin wants to make an example of these guys, he could choose to suspend both for the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Not because this game would be an easy win regardless, but because it is more about being proactive and getting it out of the way. Nevertheless, these two are the kings of stock down at this point.
All player and team stats are courtesy of NFL.com.
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